Archive for Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Yearning to wave the wheat for Kansas

March 29, 2006

I still felt the need to wave the wheat last week.

Not the Jayhawk breed, which meanders back and forth throughout Allen Fieldhouse during Kansas basketball games.

No, I'm talking about the Wichita State version.

The Shockers served as a consolation prize after watching the Jayhawks fall for the second consecutive year in the NCAA tournament.

After WSU knocked off Seton Hall and Tennessee, I hoped the Shockers, led by coach Mark Turgeon, a former Jayhawk guard, would face Roy Williams' North Carolina squad in the Sweet 16. Turgeon played for former KU coach Larry Brown and later was an assistant under Brown and Williams.

George Mason spoiled that would-be meeting when the Patriots knocked off UNC in the second round.

This wasn't a bad scenario, though, as WSU would meet a team it played earlier in the season on its home court. George Mason won that game, 70-67, so it seemed natural Wichita State would return the favor.

Nope.

Wichita State trailed much of the game as George Mason was the better Cinderella.

Although I was disappointed WSU didn't advance, George Mason provided the final remedy for the sting suffered from KU's first-round loss to Bradley.

George Mason became the first No. 11 seed to advance to the Final Four since 1986 when Louisiana State joined Duke, KU and eventual champion Louisville. LSU clinched its first Final Four berth since that year on Saturday when the No. 4-seeded Tigers beat No. 2 Texas in overtime.

When the Final Four begins Saturday, it will be without a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1980 when No. 2 Louisville, No. 5 Iowa, No. 6 Purdue and No. 8 UCLA advanced the national semifinals.

Louisvlle won that tournament also, while UCLA is in this year's Final Four. Florida, the fourth Final Four team this year, last appeared in 2000.

As for George Mason, this is the Patriots' first Final Four appearance.

I bet you can't guess whom I'll be rooting for.

UCLA has enough national titles, while Florida still is the home of the dimpled chad of the 2000 presidential election fame.

I'll be voting for the Cinderella Patriots and the boys from the Bayou for the national championship. Louisiana could use some good news as many residents there still work their way back to some form of normalcy after Hurricane Katrina.

College basketball, meanwhile, could use an improbable underdog story if the Patriots hang on for a national title.

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